Has anybody else noticed that Derrick Rose currently leads the league in PPG (33.5) and Joakim Noah is tops in RPG (18.0)?
I’m not going to get too excited. After all, the season is two games old and those numbers are going to come back down to earth. However, how about a little trivia? The last time a Bulls duo led the league in scoring and rebounding was the 1997-98 season, when Michael Jordan (28.7 PPG) and Dennis Rodman (15.0) did it.
Anyway, the Portland Trail Blazers are visiting the United Center tonight. The Blazers are 3-0. However, that record should probably have an asterisk next to it, considering two of those wins came against the Clippers (0-3) and Knicks (1-2). And the Knicks were on their second night of back-to-backs.
Still, 3-0 is 3-0, and it’s worth looking at how Portland has been winning. Offensively, the Blazers are a slow team (28th in Pace Factor) that shoots well (8th in Effective Field Goal Percentage) and executes efficiently (3rd in Offensive Efficiency) without turning the ball over (8th in Turnover Percentage).
And while three games is a small sample, Portland was strong in those areas last season too.
Portland tries to keep the tempo at the speed of paste. This forces their opponents to grind things out in the half court, where the Blazers force their opponents into turnovers (10th in Opponents Turnover Percentage) without fouling (4th in Opponents Free Throws Per Field Goal).
That said, Portland’s defense may be vulnerable in the paint. Yes, they still have Marcus Camby, but the Blazers are still missing Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla. The result: Portland is giving up the third-most shots at the rim (29.5) and their opponents are finishing 64.4 percent of those shots, which is the ninth-best conversion rate so far this season.
Conversely, Blazers opponents are attempting the third-fewest field goal attempts in that dreaded 16-23 foot range (14.5)…and with good reason. Portland’s opponents are hitting only 24.1 percent of those shots, the third-best mark in the league.
My point: The Bulls can’t afford to bail out and start shooting contested two-pointers from long range. They need to attack the basket. Chicago should also attack the boards, because the Blazers are 23rd in Defensive Rebound Percentage. Again, they’re missing two of their biggest big men. Of course, they rank 1st overall in Offensive Rebound Percentage, so the Bulls should focus on protecting their defensive backboards as well.